'I have never seen the UAE like this': Cyclists ride 550km around the Emirates

For many of the amateur participants, this was one of the longest tracks they had ridden


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 3:01 PM

Last updated: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 4:32 PM

It was a scene of jubilation and happiness as twenty cyclists who traversed 550 km all across the UAE returned home after four days on the road. Children hugged their parents and families cheered as the riders - all C-suite executives, entrepreneurs and elite competitors - finished their ride.

“I have never seen the UAE like this,” said a jubilant Rob Burns, CEO & Partner of The First Group, that organised the event. “There was this beautiful range of mountains in Sharjah with the sand against it and the sun was just rising. Everyone was just mesmerized by how beautiful it was. It felt like I was looking at a picture.”

The second edition of The First Group 7 emirates cycle challenge brought together cyclists from at least 12 different nationalities to raise funds for child welfare projects, in partnership with Dubai Cares and Rashid Centre for People of Determination.

Among those who did the ride was professional cyclist Nelson Oliveira, who has competed at Tour De France and Olympics among other competitions. Having ridden the Dubai Tour, he said that the country was special to him. “When people see the UAE, they only see the glitz and glamour of the city,” he said. “But when you cycle through the country, you get to the heart of the city which is so beautiful and peaceful. I always love coming to the UAE. Also, the group had a great camaraderie. I really enjoyed myself.”


Challenging ride

For many of the amateur participants, this was one of the longest tracks they had ridden.

Yoko Shimada, who participated in the initiative with her husband, said she took up cycling as a passion but this was a test of her stamina. “The first day was a little difficult because we were not used to riding for so long and there was a lot of crosswinds on that day,” she said. “However, once we got into the rhythm, we just kept going. For me cycling is all about feeling free and enjoying the outdoors. I really enjoyed everything about it, whether it was the humid air in Fujairah, the orange sand in Sharjah ”

Her husband Colin Keeney said the professionals were very considerate. “They kept the pace fairly easy so we were able to catch up,” he said. “If they had ridden a tad bit faster, we would have found it extremely difficult. However, the group really looked out for each other.

For Emirati rider Abdul Wahab Al Halabi, the ride was challenging as he had not been cycling much over the summer. “The first day, I was sore,” he said. “However, the beautiful scenery really made up for the challenges. It was so amazing to watch the sunrise on the mountains. It was still cold and dark and then you see the dawn cracking. It was the most beautiful feeling in the world.”

A good cause

Inspired by a cycling fundraiser he participated in the US, Rob was eager to do something similar in the UAE to raise funds for children. That is how he got in touch with various charities to pull off this event.

Last year, the donations from the event were solely from entrepreneurs and their companies. This year, the general public had the opportunity to follow the group on social media and donate. “People were extremely supportive,” said Rob. “We got a lot of people who donated. The funds will be used to help children around the world.”

Amal Al Redha from Dubai Cares said the organization is grateful for the partnership. “The great thing about it is that it has mobilized the sports community,” she said. “The funds will be used to launch programs globally that focus on early childhood development. For years, countries focused on getting enrolment rates high but now we are realizing that there needs to be more focus on the quality of support that the child gets before it reaches primary school.”

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